By Stephanie Woodard
Many Americans are now experiencing an erratic food supply for the first time. Among COVID-19's disruptions are bare supermarket shelves and items available yesterday but nowhere to be found today. As you seek ways to replace them, you can look to Native gardens for ideas and inspiration.
Aubrey Skye, Standing Rock Sioux tribal member, tills gardens for himself and other tribal members. He does some by hand, and others with this tractor. Photo by Stephanie Woodard.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jared Kaufman
On November 1st and 2nd, more than 80 food activists, farmers, policymakers, performers, journalists, researchers, business leaders, chefs and others will gather in New York City for the 3rd Annual Food Tank NYC Summit and Gala Dinner. This year, we're focusing around the theme of "The Food Movement Is Growing (and Winning)!" The hard work that food system advocates do every day is making a difference, and we're highlighting the small victories and major achievements that are building a more equitable and environmentally sustainable food system.
1. Africa Farmers Club<p>A community of farmers across 18 African countries, the Africa Farmers Club aims to bring agricultural workers together from the private sector, the public sector, and farmer organizations to share stories, successes, and knowledge. The Africa Farmers Club believes that "an informed farmer will always make the right decision, which will have a ripple effect in the whole value chain," so they aim to promote entrepreneurship and networking to help farmers use resources as efficiently as possible.</p>
2. Apeel<p>A natural postharvest protection for produce, Apeel is an invisible, edible, and tasteless coating. By acting as a barrier-like skin to protect fruits and vegetables from oxidation and microbial activity, keeping it fresh for longer and reducing food waste between harvest and consumption. Apeel Sciences was founded by Dr. James Rogers, who invented the technology while completing his doctoral degree in materials sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara.</p>
3. Co-Op Dayton<p>Co-Op Dayton is a nonprofit that encourages businesses in Dayton, Ohio, and more broadly to adopt a cooperative model of worker ownership. Cooperative companies are owned by their employees, who are elected to the company's board of directors and participate in open-book financial management. Co-Op Dayton provides resources and services to businesses adopting a cooperative model, to encourage the development of more resilient, community-oriented co-op companies.</p>
4. Farmer’s Fridge<p>Farmer's Fridge, launched in 2013, installs refrigerators full of fresh salads, sandwiches, breakfasts, and snacks in cities from Chicago to Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Farmer's Fridge is looking to make it easier for people to access healthy food options, wherever they are, at any time of day. And instead of expiration dates, food in the fridges is marked with a "donate by" date, when the food is donated to community partner organizations. As part of their sustainability efforts, any food that is not able to be donated is composted.</p>
5. Food Policy Action<p>Food Policy Action was founded in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders, including Chef Tom Colicchio, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group, and Gary Hirshberg, the Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, to hold legislators accountable on legislation effects food and farming.</p>
6. GrowNYC<p>GrowNYC provides free tools and services for New Yorkers to help improve access to fresh, healthy local food. In addition to a network of farmers' markets and fresh food organizations, GrowNYC builds and rejuvenates community and school gardens and delivers environmental stewardship programs to more than 30,000 children each year.</p>
7. The HAPPY Org<p>HAPPY—Happy Active Positive Purposeful Youth—is a youth-led organization that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social health issues they face today. They equip kids and their families with the resources, skills, and information to takes responsibility for their own health and confidently embrace nutritious and affordable food. Founded by Haile Thomas, the organization brings fun and engaging programs to schools, camps, and communities to engage youth in nutrition.</p>
8. Heated<p>Heated is a new online food magazine that's a collaboration between the publication site Medium and Mark Bittman, a former New York Times food writer and the author of the cookbook How to Cook Everything. Rather than posting articles on new restaurants or profiles of chefs, the website aims to "showcase the links between food and just about everything else: agriculture, politics, history, and labor; culture and cooking; identity, family, and love."</p>
9. Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center<p>The Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center works to develop innovative and evidence-based solutions to prevent chronic diseases and promote food security in and outside of New York City. The center's research, policy analysis, and education opportunities joins experts and students together to brainstorm ways New York City's food policy can be a model for the rest of the world.</p>
10. Misfits Market<p>Misfits Market is a subscription box-meets-food rescue. Working directly with farms around the U.S., Misfits Market buys imperfect produce that may have otherwise been thrown out because it does not look uniform enough to sell in a traditional grocery store. In each box, which comes every week or every other week, subscribers will receive this nutritious, organic produce for prices up to 25–40 percent lower than at a traditional grocery store. As of late 2019, Misfits Market delivers to 19 states plus Washington, D.C.</p>
11. Rise and Root Farm<p>Karen Washington, a farmer and community activist, wants to build a different agricultural narrative, inclusive of all races, genders, and sexualities. She created Rise and Root Farm to be a place of healing for diverse and marginalized communities — particularly important today, as black farmers work to call attention to not only their own contributions to the modern food system but also the impact of the slave trade on the development of global food chains. "Agriculture must be inclusive in its diversity," Washington tells Food Tank.</p>
12. Sealed Air<p>Sealed Air, which has decades of experience creating sustainable food packaging — they manufacture the Cryovac brand of products — aims to use food packaging as a way to address worldwide resource depletion and wasteful supply chains. Food scientist Karl Deily leads Sealed Air's commercial team, which aims to create innovative packaging that improves food safety, extends the shelf life of foods, and reduces waste in the food supply chain.</p>
13. Slow Food USA<p>Slow Food USA is part of the global Slow Food network, which spreads a mission of good, clean, and fair food for all to over 150,000 members in more than 150 countries. Through a vast volunteer network of local chapters, youth, and food communities, they link the pleasures of the table with a commitment to protect community, culture, knowledge, and environment.</p>
14. SnackFutures<p>Through its innovation and venture hub SnackFutures, food company Mondelēz is pairing startups with experts to help cultivate the future of sustainable, delicious snacking. SnackFutures identifies delicious, nutritious, and environmentally sustainable ingredients that would otherwise be passed off as waste and works to create new brands with them. "It's critical that Mondelēz and other big companies interact with entrepreneurs to keep learning and get stronger together," Brigitte Wolf, the global head of SnackFutures Innovation at Mondelēz, told Food Tank.</p>
15. Soul Fire Farm<p>Soul Fire Farm grows food as an act of solidarity with those oppressed by food apartheid, while maintaining respect for their ancestors, history, and the environment. Soul Fire Farm conducts training programs to raise the next generation of activist-farmers and support food sovereignty for future communities. The organization's Co-Director Leah Penniman recently completed a book, "Farming While Black," a guide for African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity.</p>
16. Square Roots<p>This urban farming company, located in Brooklyn, NY, grows a range of delicious herbs and distributes them directly to grocery stores across NYC. At the heart of Square Roots is their unique year-long Next-Gen Farmer Training Program, which provides an opportunity for young people to enter the farming industry. Square Roots farmers spend the year learning about plant science and how to grow indoors while getting exposed to business and community building. Co-founded by Tobias Peggs and Kimbal Musk, the farming company graduated its first class of students in 2017.</p>
17. Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture<p>Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a nonprofit organization that aims to create a food system that is healthy and sustainable. They operate an 80-acre farm and education center that experiments with and improves sustainable farming practices, trains beginning farmers, helps children discover the sources of their food and increases public awareness of seasonal and sustainable food.</p>
18. Trove<p>Founded by Sam Kass, former White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, Trove collaborates with corporations involved with transforming health, the climate, and the planet through food. They serve as strategic advisors, investors, and communication strategists to help innovative food companies achieve greater impact.</p>
19. WhyHunger<p>WhyHunger works to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions to promote self-reliance and community empowerment. Their programs include a hotline to connect those in need with resources and initiatives to advance international food sovereignty and the basic rights to food, land, water, and sustainable livelihoods.</p>
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Cheryl Angel leads a group on pilgrimage at Black Elk Peak, one of four Lakota sacred sites that were visited during the Sovereign Sisters Gathering.
Sovereign Sisters drove to Rapid City, South Dakota during the gathering to join a protest and court hearing of the Riot Booster Act, a bill introduced by Governor Kristi Noem aimed at criminalizing pipeline protestors.
Tracy Barnett<p>"We've given our power over to an entity that doesn't deserve our power," she added, referencing the modern corporate industrial system. "We must take back that empowerment of self. We must take back our own health care. We must take back our own food. We must take back our families. We must take back our environment. Because you see what's happening. We gave the power to an entity, and the entity is destroying our world around us."</p><p>Allard, June and Angel shared a bit about the work they've been doing to establish sovereignty, each in her own way, since the Standing Rock encampments.</p>
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard: Planting Seeds<p>As the woman who established the first water protector encampment at Standing Rock — called Sacred Stone Camp —and issued a call for support that launched a movement, Allard learned a lot about sovereignty and empowerment during the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline.</p><p>As the camps began to dismantle in the last weeks of the uprising, she frequently fielded the question: "What do we do now?"</p><p>Allard's response was simple: "Plant seeds."</p>
Lakota Elder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard joined a van full of fellow Sacred Stone Village residents who made the five-hour drive from Standing Rock to join the Sovereign Sisters Gathering.
Lyla June: The Forest as Farm<p>A Diné/Cheyenne/European American musician, scholar and activist, June has gravitated toward a focus on food sovereignty through her work to revitalize traditional food systems. Currently, she's in a doctoral program in traditional food systems and language at the University of Alaska, where she works with Indigenous elders around the country to uncover the genius of the continent's original cultivators.</p><p>"I think there's a huge mythology that Native people here were simpletons, they were primitive, half-naked nomads running around the forest, eating hand to mouth whatever they could find," she said. "That's how Europe portrays us. And it's portrayed us that way for so many centuries that even we start to believe that that's who we were.</p><p>"The reality is, Indigenous nations on this Turtle Island were highly organized. They densely populated the land, and they managed the land extensively. And this has a lot to do with food because a large motivation to prune the land, to burn the land, to reseed the land, and to sculpt the land was about feeding our nations. Not only our nations, but other animal nations, as well."</p>
Musician, public speaker, and scholar Lyla June on recovering traditional food systems: "What we're finding… is that human beings are meant to be a keystone species… what [we're] trying to do is bring the human being back into the role of keystone species, where our presence on the land nourishes the land."
Tracy Barnett<p>June is intrigued by soil core samples that delve thousands of years into the past; analysis of fossilized pollen, charcoal traces and soil composition reveals much about land use practices through the ages. For example, <a href="https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5276203.pdf" target="_blank">in Kentucky</a>, a soil core sample that went back 10,000 years shows that about 3,000 years ago the forest was dominated by cedar and hemlock. But about 3,000 years ago the whole forest composition changed to black walnut, hickory nut, chestnut and acorn; edible species such as goosefoot and sumpweed began to flourish.</p><p>"So these people—whoever moved in around 3,000 years ago — radically changed the way the land looked and tasted," she said.</p><p>So did the colonizers, but in a much different way. The costs to the food system as a result of colonization, she said, is becoming clear, and the mounting pressure of the climate crisis is making a shift imperative.</p><p>"When did we start waiting for others to feed us? That's no longer going to be a luxury question," June said.</p><p>Besides the <a href="https://www.macleans.ca/society/how-crop-monocultures-are-threatening-our-food-supply/" target="_blank">vulnerability of monocrops</a> to extreme weather events, these industrial agricultural crops are also dependent on pesticides and herbicides. Additionally, pests are adapting, producing chemical resistant insects and superweeds.</p><p>"We're running out of bullets in our food system, and it's quite precarious right now," she said. "The poor animals that we farm are also on the precipice … so we're in a state where we should probably start asking ourselves that question now, before we're forced to, and remember the joy of feeding ourselves."</p><p>That's June's intention: to take what she's learned from a year of apprenticeships with Indigenous elders in different bioregions, then return home to Diné Bikéyah — Navajo territory — to apply it, regenerating traditional Navajo food systems in an interactive action research project aimed at both teaching and learning, refining techniques with each year.</p><p>"I'm hoping at the end of three years, or four years, we will be fluent in our language and in our food system," June said. "And we will be operating as a team — and we will have a success story that other tribes can look to and model and be inspired by."</p><p>The long-range goal, she said, is to create an autonomous school that teaches traditional culture, language and food systems that can be a model for other Indigenous communities.</p>
Cheryl Angel: Creating Sovereign Communities<p>To Angel, sovereignty is best expressed in creating community — the temporary communities created at gatherings, like at the Sovereign Sisters Gathering, but also more permanent communities, like at Sacred Stone Village.</p><p>Part of being sovereign lies in strengthening and rebuilding sharing economies, she said. And part of it lies in reducing waste, rejecting rampant consumerism and the harmful aspects of the modern industrial system, like single-use plastics and toxic chemicals.</p>
Cheryl Angel in a late-night talking circle, sharing reflections about her Lakota ancestors: "We were never into entitlement; that's why we didn't have kings. We were into revering, honoring, relating to everything around us. All of these living spirits around us… That's the system nobody is talking about, that needs to be protected."
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty—from Feb. 18 - 19 in Granville, Ohio—will feature an all day pre-conference workshop on Feb. 17, and a keynote address and workshop on Feb. 18 on topics including, how people and institutions can help finance the local food system, how farmers and local food business can access capital and what local financing models are out there.
The events will feature Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch who will provide a primer on Slow Money, a national effort to encourage sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses.
“Slow Money is a movement and an investment strategy,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the organizer of the event. “Slow Money is about finding meaningful places for people to put their money to work, right in their own communities.”
A former venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Tasch inspired the Slow Money movement by writing Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered. He is the former chairman of Investors’ Circle, which has invested $133 million in 200 early stage sustainability businesses since 1992 and served as treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation.
“We’ve got to take some of our money out of all this stuff that we no longer understand or can manage effectively and put it to work near where we live, starting with food,” Tasch said in a December interview with the Ohio News Service.
In a 2011 interview with Edible Columbus, Tasch went on to say, “If we are going to build a new food system and a new restorative economy, we are going to need billions upon billions of dollars. Where is this money going to come from? Wall Street? Washington? Foundations? Whatever they can do, it won’t be enough, it won’t be direct enough and there won’t be enough of it. The only place it can come from is from all of us, who have a direct, vested interest in the places where we live.”
To date, $4.5 million has been invested in 16 small food enterprises through Slow Money’s national gatherings. In the last year, $5 million more has been invested through Slow Money chapters.
The full day pre-conference event, Slow Money for Ohio? Financing the Local Food System, is Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and features panels of experts and practitioners who will discuss the challenges of capitalizing the local food economy and strategies to nurture long-term impact and prosperity. Additionally, the event will showcase Slow Money-type models in Ohio and elsewhere and provide attendees with an opportunity to network with individuals and representatives from businesses, organizations and government interested in investing in their local food system.
In addition to Woody Tasch, pre-conference presenters will include:
• John Mitterholzer, The Gund Foundation (invited)
• Mark Barbash, MB Economic Development Consulting
• Joe Cimperman, Cleveland City Council
• Todd Deiterrle, New Harvest Ventures
• Jessica Eickleberry, Local Roots Market and Café (recently featured in the Washington Post)
• Leslie Schaller, ACEnet
• Becky Rondy, Green Edge Gardens
• Representatives from The Economic and Community Development Institute of Columbus, Kemba Bank, Insight Bank, and Farm Credit Services of Mid-America
Tasch’s conference keynote address, Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Matter, is on Feb. 18 from 4 - 5:15 p.m. Earlier in the day, Tasch will be leading a workshop, Slow Money 101: Where is it Coming From, Where is it Going? from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.
OEFFA's annual conference is the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, drawing more than 1,000 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest. In addition to Tasch, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Andrew Kimbrell, more than 70 informative and hands-on workshops, two featured pre-conference events, a trade show, a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area, locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.
All events are at Granville Middle and High Schools at 248 New Burg St. in Granville, Ohio. Pre-registration is required. Cost for the pre-conference is $45 for members and $55 for non-members, and includes lunch. Cost for the conference is $115 for members and $175 for non-members, and meals must be purchased separately. Prices vary for late registrations, students and one-day only registrations.
For more information or to register online, click here and receive $5 off the registration fee.
The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a state-wide, grassroots, non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.
by Lauren N. Ketcham
Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty is the theme of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference on Feb. 18-19 in Granville, Ohio. Drawing nearly 1,000 attendees in 2011, Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference will feature keynote speakers Woody Tasch and Andrew Kimbrell, more than 70 workshops, local and organic meals, kids’ conference, childcare, a trade show and more. Workshop topics include gardening, homesteading, cooking, green living, livestock production, marketing and fracking.
Keynote speakers Tasch and Kimbrell, who are both challenging our current industrial food structure, will bring a focus on the need to create food systems that foster food sovereignty—the right of people to define their own food, agriculture, and livestock systems that put the needs of those who produce, distribute, and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations.
Tasch is the chairman of the Slow Money Alliance and inspired the Slow Money movement by writing Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered. The Slow Money Alliance is bringing people together around a new conversation about money that is too fast, about finance that is disconnected from people and place and about how people can begin fixing the economy from the ground up, starting with food. It is premised on the “alliance” between the people who produce food and the people who consume food.
Kimbrell is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys and founder and executive director of The International Center for Technology Assessment and The Center for Food Safety, which has taken a lead role in fighting the deregulation of genetically engineered crops.
Kimbrell is author of 101 Ways to Help Save the Earth, The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life, Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food and general editor of Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. His articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, technology journals, magazines and newspapers across the country, and he has been featured in many documentary films, including The Future of Food.
For more information or to register, visit www.oeffa.org or 614-421-2022. Registration open mid-December.